How would you like to be greeted with a bouquet of fresh vibrant flowers every time you arrived at home, or work, or to visit a friend or family member? For more than a decade the state of Washington has done just that—welcomed its citizens and visitors from the south, traveling by I-5 with nothing less than a vibrant and beautiful reminder that all are truly welcomed here.
I am referring to the Welcome to Washington sign on I-5 northbound just north of the Interstate Bridge and the Oregon state line. I am certain many of you have also admired this colorful array of plants as well. This year’s design is an arrangement of yellow and orange Marigolds paying tribute to the city of Vancouver’s 150th birthday.
I remember the impression the sign and plantings made upon me even as a young child after moving to the state of Washington with my family in 1989. I remember noting its beauty and vibrancy then as nothing I had seen in my limited travels as a youngster. I remember hearing my parents and their friends share buzz words about Washington being so much more “livable,” and offering a great “quality of life”—I listened very attentively.
As I reflect on the beauty of the plantings that surround the “Welcome to Washington” sign and its uniqueness comparatively to welcome signs in other states, I am drawn to its symbolism—reaffirming that indeed we do live in a beautiful state that offers a quality of life that is unsurpassed.
Is there another state that offers a “living welcome”? I am not aware of another. Not only is the arrangement of the plants colorful and artistic, its mere existence is the result of state pride, esprit de corps, and community collaboration. The plantings have truly become an evolutionary expression of the wonderful things our state represents and our gratitude as citizens for such a home.
History: The idea for the welcome sign was birthed in the legislature in 1989 in honor of the state’s Centennial celebration. The actual sign was constructed by the Washington State Department of Transportation’s SW Region Bridge Crew. The flag poles were donated by a local Veterans group, and the lighting was donated by a local electricians union. Since 1994, the Department of Transportation has maintained the sign and plantings, periodically polling the community for design submission ideas. Over the years, local Eagle Scout troops have helped clean and maintain the sign as well.